Winderman: Meet the new Kobe, same as the old Kobe

18 Comments

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s play, only one NBA player was averaging more than 19 shots per game.

That player, in fact, was averaging 22.3, essentially putting him in a league of his own.

Which, of course, is where Kobe Bryant long has considered himself.

The question now is whether 22.3 is too many, whether it fractures the team concept, whether Mike Brown once again is handing over the keys to an offense, just as he did, without ultimate success, to LeBron James with the Cavaliers.

This, of course, is nothing new with Kobe, who finished second, barely, to Monta Ellis in shots per game last season, 20.1 to 20.0, as the only two players in the league to average more than 20 attempts. And two seasons ago, Kobe finished third in the NBA, behind Ellis and Carmelo Anthony.

The point being that triangle or no triangle, Kobe is going to get his shots and get a lot of them.

When Kobe went 6 of 28 in Sunday’s loss to the Nuggets, Brown said he did not have an issue with Bryant’s shot selection. There was no snarky Jackson-esque aide to indicate otherwise.

As the ultimate complementary player, Pau Gasol continues to be along for the ride.

But for Andrew Bynum, the question is whether so much offense going in one direction isn’t undermining his development as arguably the best center in the West.

The irony, of course, is had David Stern had not blocked Chris Paul-to-Lakers, Kobe would not have the ball in his hands as much, would not be able to decide on his own what is and is not a good shot.

But beyond that, the greater issue is when the Lakers are going to begin transition to something beyond all-Kobe all-the-time.

One would have thought that transition would have begun with the move from Jackson to Brown. But with the roster relatively stagnant, save for the loss of Lamar Odom, it appears it will be same as it ever was.
A lot of Kobe. Scraps for everyone else. With Brown’s endorsement.

To a degree, there simply might not be a need for the Lakers to evolve. After a rough start, after getting Bynum back from his season-opening suspension, after a new tape job on Kobe’s wrist, they seem fine.

Kobe certainly is fine. He’s getting his shots. More than he has in years.

But is that in the Lakers’ best interest? Bynum’s best interest? The best interest of a team caught in the middle of a grueling schedule with a lot of games and little time for rest?

At 33, Kobe is making himself more essential to the Lakers than at perhaps any other point in his career.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Kings’ rookie De’Aaron Fox commits California mortal sin, slams In-N-Out

Getty Images
1 Comment

We Californians take a few things seriously. Surf reports, for one. Winemaking/tasting. Tech toys. Coming up with potential blockbuster movie franchise ideas, getting a star to buy in, then maybe or maybe not worrying about getting a decent script.

Also, In-N-Out Burger. If there is one thing all Californians can agree on, it’s that In-N-Out is the best burger chain in the world. It’s not up for debate.

Apparently Kings’ rookie De'Aaron Fox did not get that memo. He did a Q&A with Rolling Stone’s Seerat Sohi and crossed a sacred line.

“All I gotta say, you can tell everybody that lives in the state of California this: In-N-Out is not good.”

What’s your beef with In-N-Out Burger?
“Their burgers are overrated. They’re OK.”

Even Animal Style?
“Yes. People always say, you haven’t tried this. You haven’t tried that. I’m like, “Yeah, I looked up the secret menu. I’ve tried it all. It’s just not good.”

That’s controversial. What’s the best fast food spot then?
“Honestly, for me, I don’t count Chick-fil-A, because it’s way too good to be considered fast food. So I’m gonna say Wendy’s. Fat Burger in L.A. is better than In-N-Out.”

It’s this simple: Fox is flat-out wrong.

First off, Chick-fil-A is wildly overrated, so we know the taste of the 19-year-old point guard is off. Fat Burger is legit. But Wendy’s? Come on now, that’s just average.

If Fox had tried to argue Five Guys, I would have let it slide — I don’t think they’re as good, but I will admit a California bias. But Wendy’s? You lose the entire argument right there. It’s like saying Pixels was the best movie ever.

In-N-Out is the best. Fox needs to get on board with this.

Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic hospitalized after practice fight with Bobby Portis

Getty Images
7 Comments

It was going to be a difficult season in Chicago if everything went right — and two days before the first game of the season things have gone horribly wrong.

Bulls’ starting forward Nikola Mirotic got into a shoving match with Bobby Portis, and Portis turned and sucker-punched him, according to multiple reports.

The Bulls have confirmed the fight and have announced Mirotic suffered a concussion and maxillary fractures in his face — the upper jaw and nasal cavity area — which likely will require surgery. He is going to miss weeks of time.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports had more details.

Mirotic was taken to the hospital Tuesday after their shoving altercation during practice ended with an alleged cheap shot from Portis to Mirotic’s face, league sources told The Vertical. Mirotic is undergoing tests, but is expected to be out for the foreseeable future, league sources said.

Mirotic will miss weeks, according to a source, and you can be sure severe discipline from the team is coming down for Portis.

In the short term, this likely means more run for rookie Lauri Markkanen as well as just re-signed Cristiano Felicio.

LeBron James will play in opener against Celtics

Getty Images
2 Comments

Did we really expect anything else?

LeBron James was a game-time decision for the season opener in Cleveland against Boston and Kyrie Irving due to a sprained ankle. We expected he would go, but ankles can be tricky and are easy to re-injure once sprained, so the Cavs wanted to be careful.

He’s going to play. Coach Tyronn Lue made it official.

LeBron is the best player on the planet, but he can coast through the regular season at times. What teams try to avoid is giving him extra motivation… say bringing in a guy who left the team last summer on opening night. Expect full force LeBron tonight.

LeBron James, do you owe Cleveland anything? “I don’t owe anybody anything”

Getty Images
1 Comment

It will be the biggest off-court topic of the NBA season: Will LeBron James stay with the Cavaliers after this season?

Right now, LeBron doesn’t know the answer to that question for sure. I’m sure he has ideas, but he wisely leaves all his options open, then can make a call next summer when the time comes.

When that time does come, does he owe his hometown Cleveland anything? LeBron answered that question in the latest issue of GQ, and he answered with an emphatic no.

“LeBron James owes nobody anything. Nobody,” he said. “When my mother told me I don’t owe her anything, from that point in time, I don’t owe anybody anything. But what I will give to the city of Cleveland is passion, commitment, and inspiration. As long as I put that jersey on, that’s what I represent. That’s why I’m there — to inspire that city. But I don’t owe anybody anything.”

That’s not what Cavs fans may want to hear, but it’s also spot on. LeBron has given this franchise everything he has, he has brought them the first title the team has had in 50 years, and nobody sane can question his passion or how hard he plays.

LeBron could well get to his eighth straight NBA Finals, feel he’s on a team that can push the Warriors, then look at his options — the Lakers and a young core that doesn’t defend well, for example — and think maybe he’s best where he’s at. Perhaps he teams up with another star in Los Angeles or somewhere else. If LeBron called up 28 teams and said “I want to come there” those teams would make whatever moves they needed to for the deal to happen. (I say 28 because the Warriors wouldn’t, and even they’d think about it.)

LeBron has the leverage, and he is always a guy who keeps his options open. He will be asked about his future in every road stop, he will dodge the questions, and we’ll try to read the tea leaves, but as of right now LeBron doesn’t know for sure what LeBron will do next summer. Neither do we.